A defeated, petulant and increasingly graying President Obama appeared on the television today, speaking from the White House. He seemed to be trying to make sense of the wreckage of collapsed narratives that were growing a heap, radiating out from his podium. He struck the very portrait of wounded pride, so much to the extent that even in the hazed hangover of blood lust from last night’s electoral massacre, a conservative might, in the deepest recesses of their mind, feel a twinge of strange sympathy. His body language and tone were lit neon with the tell-tale of a tortured psyche; quick and jerky motions of the hands, uncertain hesitations in the speech, and schizophrenic variations between cajoling and reprimanding the members of the press tasked with interrogating him over what may have been his deepest personal repudiation since achieving office.
President Obama has always had a harder time of separating his ego from politics than other presidents in recent memory. He often falls short of coming across as perfectly presidential, going back to the 2010 State of the Union address where he shattered decorum by criticizing the Supreme Court Justices seated in front of him for their votes on Citizens United. He also has always harbored an endless contempt for Fox News, often making jabs that he could not muster the will to conceal as jokes. In the question and answer portion of today’s remarks, his mutual antagonism with Ed Henry was on display with sarcastic fusillades over the course of answering Ed’s question about foreign policy in regards to ISIS.
One could speculate that President Obama was just never well suited to being in a position that would require diplomacy, and that would require him to bear perceived slights with a stone face. His less sympathetic qualities have always been hubris and conceit. Where President Bush before him bore with dignity the public perception that he was intellectually incompetent to lead, President Obama spent his time in office looking for ways to find insult in every defeat, further souring relations with political opposition. When the narrative inevitably arrived at gridlock, it made it difficult for him to spin to independents that he was innocent of participation. He had made a career out of insulting Republicans and trying to lead them into rhetorical traps. Republicans in the press at today’s remarks seemed exultant to exact their revenge, rubbing his nose in the election results of last night, time and time again.
President Obama’s remarks belied some danger in his defeat, as he is a man cornered going into his final two years. One must speculate that the remainder of this administration will consists of claiming popular mandates and trying to force executive order, in a time where his leadership has lost the House, lost the Senate, and lead to a supreme court that has voted against his administration in two-thirds of cases, 13 of them unanimously. As his ego has an increasingly difficult time actually hearing that the will of the people has shifted away from him, it goes towards his romantic self-image of still being able to be a hero. He’s shifting to believe that he knows better than his electorate, and has been sharpening the tools of office. The remainder of President Obama’s time in office should be interesting, to say the least.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Live Broadcast of Presidents Remarks
Photo Public Domain Courtesy of Executive Office of the President of the United States